Roger Federer's Biggest Threats En Route to 2013 French Open Final

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IMay 26, 2013

Mar 16, 2013; Indian Wells, CA, USA;    Tomas Berdych (CZE) during his semi final match against Rafael Nadal (ESP) in BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Nadal won 6-4, 7-5. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 French Open draw worked out in Roger Federer's favor, as the 31-year-old Swiss legend will avoid having to play either Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic before the tournament final.

While the 17-time Grand Slam champion still has to win six matches before he can take aim at his second French Open title at Roland Garros, there are only a handful of players in Fed's path capable of knocking him off. 

Below we'll take a closer look at Federer's three biggest threats en route to the 2013 French Open final.


Gilles Simon

Frenchman Gilles Simon is seeded 15th in the men's draw this year, and could potentially run into Roger Federer in the fourth round at Roland Garros if both players win their first three matches.

While Simon has flown under the radar for the most part since reaching the quarterfinals of the 2009 Australian Open four years ago, he has actually fared quite well against Fed overall, having won two and lost three against the 2009 French Open champion.

Although Fed has gotten the better of Simon in their previous three meetings and beat him in straight sets last week at the Rome Masters, it should be noted that he needed five sets to dispose of the now 28-year-old in the second round of the 2011 Australian Open in their only previous Grand Slam meeting.

In 2008, Simon beat Federer in Toronto and Shanghai on hard courts. But the two players have met on red clay just once, which would make a potential fourth-round matchup between the two must-see television.


Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Another seeded Frenchman on Roger Federer's radar this year is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The top-ranked veteran beat Federer at Wimbledon and Montreal back in the summer of 2011, but has struggled against the Swiss star in recent meetings. 

If the two players were to meet in Paris this summer, it would be in the quarterfinals. Both Federer and Tsonga reached the quarters of the 2012 French Open. For Tsonga, it was the best finish of his career at the clay-court Slam.

Federer recently beat Tsonga in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Australian Open, but needed all five sets to do it. Tsonga's big serves and exceptional net play, which played a big role in his performance against Fed in Melbourne, are two key areas to watch for at Roland Garros. 

With the 28-year-old Tsonga having reached the quarterfinals at three of the past four Grand Slam events, expect Federer to meet him in the tournament's second week.


Tomas Berdych

While Tomas Berdych may not seem like a mighty threat to Roger Federer at Roland Garros this summer, consider this: Federer has not beaten Berdych in over a year, dropping his last two meetings against the Czech star, including a four-set loss in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open in 2012.

Going back to the start of 2011, Berdych has won three of five matches against Federer.

The soonest these two could meet in the French Open this year would be in the semifinals. But it's not as unlikely as it seems. With Andy Murray out with a bad back, the door is open for Berdych to make a run to the semis if he can beat Spanish clay stars David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro.

The fifth-seeded Berdych last reached the semis of the French Open in 2010. But if he can remain mentally tough throughout this year's tournament, there's no reason he can't storm into a semifinal matchup with Roger Federer and potentially crash the final like he did at Wimbledon in 2010.


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